Fiction

Forthcoming

‘The Finch’s Wedding and the Hive That Sings’. In the Cotillion, the Song is all. A commander bargains with an oracle for favorable omens, but her bid for war is complicated by that most difficult of all battles: marriage negotiation between the powerful. Poly marriage, politics, loyalty, and music. 7,200 words.

‘Dream Command’. 6,000 words.

2016

‘That Which Stands Tends Toward Free Fall’ in Clarkesworld Magazine. In a not-too-far future, the geopolitical map has changed irrevocably and war has become the default. A retired soldier has spent years in Ayutthaya, avoiding her former duties, until they catch up in the shape of her commander and her AI child. Ghost in the Shell meet post-colonialism in Thailand meet lesbian soldiers. 5,800 words.

‘The Beast at the End of Time’ in Apex Magazine. As the world marches toward the guillotine of its finale, a beast wakes and a woman heavy with her mothers’ legacy seeks to repair humanity’s last refuge. A bit Jekyll-Hyde, a bit Beauty and the Beast circa nanomachine apocalypse, all lesbian. 4,000 words.

2015

‘The Occidental Bride’ in Clarkesworld Magazine. Heilui, a Hong Kong anthropologist, buys an ex-mafia Finnish bride. Her new wife Kerttu must learn to adapt to civilian life in an unfamiliar land, an unfamiliar culture… and perhaps together the two of them will catch the terrorist behind the war that sank Europe. 6,700 words.

‘The Insurrectionist and the Empress Who Reigns Over Time’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Yin Sanhi is the woman who foments and leads revolutions, knowing always that she’s one step from her fall – and Empress Narasorn proves her equal. Epic fantasy in 6,000 words.

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Lesbian SFF recommendation master list

Short stories

Her Last Breath Before Waking by A.C. Wise

Women in Sandstone by Alex Dally MacFarlane

She Shines like a Moon by Pear Nuallak

Perfect by Yukimi Ogawa

Novels and collections

Things We Found During the Autopsy Kuzhali Manickavel

Alcestis by Katharine Beutner

The Race by Nina Allan

The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall

The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith

Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks

The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer

Disturbed by Her Song by Tanith Lee

These are, obviously, things I like (rather than a comprehensive list of all lesbian SFF ever). I’ll be updating them as more occur. Currently, the novel recommendations are way too white. Despite my efforts (repeated, persistent, futile), finding SFF novels (or SFF-adjacent) that feature lesbians or bi women who spend a good chunk of the story in love with women isn’t easy, and finding those written by women of color is painfully difficult. This is because publishing is dominated by white women, mostly straight ones at that. It leaves almost no room for women of color, let alone queer women of color.

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Ghoul Universe

While rewatching some clips, I clicked on the Kaneki vs Jason fight from Tokyo Ghoul (background music: the very nice Ling Tosite Sigure track ‘Unravel’). Couple minutes in, I thought, hmm… this reminds me of something else I’ve been putting on loop obsessively. As in the Garnet vs Jasper fight from Steven Universe to the tune of ‘Stronger Than You’.

I’m not saying the Jasper and Garnet sequence is inspired by Tokyo Ghoul oas such (Steven Universe is a very anime show and direct homages tend to be completely obvious; they don’t care about ‘hiding’ it). A lot of it is just certain visual conventions in your typical fight sequence between a Big Beefy combatant vs a smaller one, and the camera angles similarities are a product of that. Still, I thought it was fun to do some shot-to-shot comparisons. There are certain emotion beats in common, so to speak, and thematic ones.

Round rooms, diamond patterns.

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Beefwife is love, beefwife is life, big buff cheeto puff is my guide

On first encountering Jasper in ‘The Return’ and subsequent appearance in ‘Jail Break’ I was pretty perplexed as to why she has a huge following in the Steven Universe fandom. I mean, she barely gets screentime!

Fast forward to reading fan speculations and consuming an exorbitant quantity of fanart later, I now obsessively spam twitter with endless streams of GLORIOUS BEEFWIFE.

(If you think shipping this is kind of trashy, well… YOU’RE RIGHT. I commit to full-time Jasper/Lapis trash. Great trash. I love this trash.)

I mean, it’s no surprise! Jasper is kind of a queer girl’s fantasy and oops I errr write characters like Jasper quite a bit: authoritative-to-authoritarian, beefy, intimidating military women. That describes about, I don’t know, at least 80% of my bibliography. I love writing queer women who don’t give one solitary fuck about cultural enforcement of ‘femininity’. They’re tall, physically imposing, very gay, and very scary.

So what I’m saying is, if you like Jasper, you’ll proooobably like some of my fiction. It’s my blog, I do what I want, and I figured giving a guided taster of my bibliography is helpful to some new twitter acquaintances.

‘Autodidact’ may appeal to Jasper/Lapis shippers (with, yes, exactly all the dysfunction, abuse, and exploitation that implies – it’s fucked up, intentionally so); Mehaan has much in common with Jasper while Nirapha is an embittered, mistreated and nihilistic psychiatrist who’s roped into Mehaan’s schemes.

On the second night she meets her co-parent.

Nirapha is eating alone, and then she is not. A chair clicking open opposite hers, a stranger filling the seat: a hard dense mass of a person in clothes so crisp they look brittle, like frost on the cusp of cracking. She judges the stranger to be in her eighties, mid-life, emblazoned rather than eroded by years.

“Mehaan Indari,” the woman says. “You’ll be teaching the ship ethics and interpersonal etiquette, I’ve been informed. I’m in charge of guiding it through combat simulations, so we’ll be coming in antithetical directions but working in—more or less—concert.”

Next ‘Golden Daughter, Stone Wife’! Guess which character is thematically and physically closest to Jasper.

“Tell them there is no golem.”

“But there must be, Mistress Erhensa.” This voice does not belong to my servant. “We detected the flux of its dissipation. I was dispatched immediately.”

It’s too dim for the glass to glare, and so I’m obliged to turn. The Ormodoni is ludicrously young, ludicrously freckled, and it is an insult they’ve sent this over a gray-haired officer. Her gaze severe, her shoulders high beneath the weight of pauldrons, her stance square despite the bulk of plating.

Can’t get enough of Jasper/Lapis vibes? ‘The Insurrectionist and the Empress Who Reigns Over Time’ will provide. Including, yeah, the fucked-up dynamics. Empress Narasorn does keep Sanhi tortured and imprisoned for a full year and then some.

Empress Narasorn is not beautiful, and the faith that ruled both her nation and her palace forbids court poets to tell lies. Her bearing-mother had been broad in the shoulder and thick in the neck; her giving-mother had been widely built. She inherited these aspects, and they should have made her breathtaking. But something in her features betrayed this excellent heritage—a sharpness of bone, an angle of jaw—and she was merely plain. Nor did she adorn herself; she dressed as a footsoldier might in times of war and scarcity. A blade was strapped to her thigh, passed down from her bearing-mother, and an arrowhead gleamed around her neck, a keepsake from her giving-mother. Her hair was austere, cropped, dyed iron-gray.

(All these were published well before I started watching SU and, for that matter, way before Jasper debuted on the show. But you know. This character type. My favorite. Beefwife 5eva.)

Skincare 2016: Moisturize Plz

I can never get enough of doing skincare recommendations and it’s time to do an update since my last skincare basics post. I’ve tried lots more products! I used my face so you don’t have to. (Well, not really. I used my face to try products I’m interested in and I don’t generally have much reaction to most products, but you know what I mean.)

Something I’d like to suggest: keywords for researching your skin problems and a resource with which to look them up. Paula Begoun says some silly things, but the Ingredient Dictionary is solid if you know your keywords. For example:

fztplsl

Once you’ve done your search, you’ll want to keep in mind that usually the higher up an ingredient is on a product’s ingredient list, the more the product contains of that ingredient. So if you are after niacinamide (to fade hyperpigmentation, i.e. acne scars), its placement as second in this ingredient list suggests there’s a decent amount of it in the product:

Water, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Dimethicone, Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, Silica, Boron Nitride, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Polyglyceryl-2 Oleate, Glucosyl Hesperidin, Dimethiconol, Aminomethyl Propanol, C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Acrylates, Polyglyceryl-10 Oleate, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Benzoate, Disodium EDTA, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance

That’s Olay Regenerist Luminous Tone Perfecting Treatment, by the way. (A quick search tells me the serum contains 3-7% niacinamide, FWIW. I haven’t used it – I’m not a huge fan of most western drugstore brands.)

My advice, as usual, is hydrate well! Almost all skin problems get better when your moisture barrier is in good shape, including healing from infection/acne/etc. In my experience, unless you already have great skin, very simple skincare routines (slapping on one cream and calling it a day) tend not to suffice in providing moisture. YMMV, though. For all I know, you could be scrubbing your face with detergent and splash some water on and your skin might still look awesome. I mean, it’s not likely. But it sure is possible.

For the rest of us mere mortals, here’s a bunch of products I enjoyed in 2015 that I can cheerfully recommend. I suggest at least a 3-step routine, if you have time: cleanser-moisturizer-occlusive for night, and cleanse-moisturizer-sunscreen for day.

Oil cleansers are gentle, great at dissolving makeup and/or sunscreen, and helpful if your skin is dehydrated (even if it’s oily, oil cleansers are still for you). Usual disclaimers regarding allergies. Mineral oil is what you want if you are allergic to a bunch of fruit/plant oils. Some product recommendations:

  • Muji Cleansing Oil for Sensitive Skin is mostly olive oil and has a short ingredient list. The texture is thicker than any other cleansing oils I have tried, making it harder to spread, but it removes everything perfectly well and it’s dead cheap. Downside is that it smells kind of weird and chemical. Cheap as heck
  • Three Balancing Cleansing Oil is fairly expensive (but – given the ingredients – IMO better than Shu Uemura’s similarly-priced cleansing oils, which consist mostly of the very cheap mineral oil). It smells amazing, emulsifies well, and leaves my skin much less stripped than Shu Uemura’s. Skincare benefits are negligible because it’s not on your face long, but if you want to splurge on a cleansing oil, this is a great choice.

Gel and cream cleansers are gentler and less drying than foam cleansers. I’ve heard that some foam cleansers are decently moisturizing, but those tend to be the very high end and I haven’t yet tried any.

  • Clinique Mild Facial Soap. It’s unexciting, but it does its job and doesn’t dry yout out, and the ph isn’t too high.
  • Innisfree Jeju Bija Anti-Trouble Cleansing Gel. Low-ph, doesn’t dry out skin, and pretty cheap.
  • Skinfood Black Sugar Deep Cleansing Cream. Smells sweet and lemony; shame about the jar packaging though.

balancingskincare_640

Light moisturizer

  • Laneige Water Bank Gel Cream EX. I love this. It’s not heavy, it sinks in well, and like all Laneige products agree with my face. The fragrance is lightly floral.
  • Innisfree Green Tea Seed Cream. Texture of Greek yogurt. I expected it to leave my face greasy, but it actually leaves my skin satiny and hydrated without shine and oiliness. The fragrance is a bit strong, but not unpleasant (it smells like the kind of green tea that’s not matcha).
  • Muji Balancing All-in-One Essence. It contains squalane, castor oil, olive oil, and hydraulic acid. It’s cheap. It purports to function as an ‘all-in-one’ (i.e. essence/moisturizer/toner) but it’s too light to hydrate on its own, so I do suggest using it under a heavier cream. For a cheap product, it smells surprisingly pleasant, sort of orangey.

honeyflowercream

Heavy moisturizer, occlusives, sleeping packs. You want these to seal in your prior skincare steps. Use Vaseline or lanolin is fine, but not for me. I prefer heavy creams or sleeping packs because they usually have other ingredients I like (and smell better).

  • THE SAEM Jeju Horse Oil Soothing Gel Cream. Yeah, it’s made from horse oil. Who cares. The point is, this product contains 300 ml. There’s a lot of it and it’s $7-8 a tub. It takes a bit to sink in, but this is best as the last step in evening/night skincare.
  • Guerisson 9 Complex Cream. Also a horse oil product, except it also contains a bunch of plant extracts, plant oils, oligopeptide, niacinamide, adenosine, and (not much, but some) ceramide. Those are all great ingredients with research to back them up, making this a hell of a cream. This is much more expensive than THE SAEM’s gel cream, but it packs a lot more beneficial and antioxidant ingredients. At $16-20 for 70 ml, it’s still perfectly reasonable. Due to the richness, you’ll want this – again – as the last step in your skincare.
  • Banila co Miss Flower & Mr. Honey Cream. This is really special. It has the texture of a balm, ala vaseline, but smells strongly of honey – like the jar contains actual honey, not just an artificial smell. It’s got 42% honey, fermented yeast extract, niacinamide, adenosine, argan oil, olive oil, among others. The packaging is luxurious, the smell is delicious, the ingredients are excellent and the consistency makes this an awesome occlusive/sleeping pack. At $40 or so for 70 ml, it’s definitely more expensive than most, but you do need very little per use.
  • Laneige Water Sleeping Pack EX. It’s geared toward mid-rangey prices and there are probably cheaper products that work as well, but for me? This really works despite the absence of exciting ingredients.

Help a Vron

Hello, I’m Kate. My close friend, Vron (@hologramvron) is in danger. They, 17, were recently outed to their parents. Their parents are deeply religious and have a history of abuse, and Vron has legitimate reason to believe that they will be sent to conversion therapy, a deeply harmful process.

They’re already cut off from outside contact, not allowed to leave the house, and have been forced to sleep in a room without a door for over four years.

Meet Vron. They’re a queer non-binary teen, and they are in need of help to escape an abusive household and the very high possibility of being forced into conversion therapy.

I met Vron a few months ago (time passes quickly online) on twitter, and at first I thought them a fun, bright young person. But as time passed I came to see that Vron wasn’t just fun and bright, they were also exceptionally mature, talented, and outspoken. It’s not that they need to be all those things to deserve help, but I’ve always found their online company excellent and their presence in my twitter feed a joy.

They’re also seventeen, and have been living in an abusive household for their entire life.

They’ve tweeted about being isolated, abused, and having their privacy violated multiple times. Under fundamentalist Catholic parents, they have always had to live with the fear that their parents might find out that they are not only queer but also non-binary. It’s a terrifying state and that Vron has been surviving it with extraordinary strength and courage. Recently, just a few months from their reaching the age of majority, Vron was outed to their parents – while they’re still underage and without many of the legal protections that an adult would have. It means they can (and at the moment, very likely) be forced into conversion therapy; Vron lives in an American state where this practice is legal and, I believe, they are not under protection from the law as a youth. How bad is conversion therapy?

Really bad. Conversion therapy practices can entail threat of electric shock to the genitals and being made to sniff your own feces.

As of this writing, the fundraiser has already met its goal, but I’d like Vron to have access to as much funds as possible and for the fundraiser to far exceed its goal. Why? Because I think you and I know that $2,000 – while very helpful! – will not go far enough. Vron’s parents are not okay people and I don’t think they’ll let Vron go easily. What could lie ahead may be a grueling, traumatic legal battle and Vron will need as much financial support as possible. Money may not solve all things, but for a queer non-binary youth it’s going to grant them options that they badly need.

Vron deserves the world. Let’s help give them one.

 

2015: Year in Review

It’s time for that most reluctant of all reviews: the year in review.

2015 has been fantastically awful, not just for me but for the world at large. I can hardly go two, three days on twitter without hearing of a new mass shooting or some western country deciding that the solution to everything is to bomb the shit out of it. 2015 in geopolitics has been appalling and, if you’re not part of the western hegemony, absolutely frightening. I’ve been reading a lot of accounts from Syrian perspectives, most memorably this one of women in Raqqa joining the ISIS morality police and later escaping. I’ve read a lot about refugees and immigration, the latter notably ‘How to Get Your Green Card in America’, and about the exploitation of foreign workers in (again) America. It’s not that reading these things helps, necessarily: being aware and acknowledging privileges are all good but not exactly concrete actions. Still, it’s necessary reading. Much of my social media feed is currently black women and trans women, and their courage and strength are breathtaking.

I witnessed the rise of Camryn Garrett, a black teen girl who’s been fantastically brave in speaking up about issues in YA and challenging white, famous adults. This is astoundingly courageous, though I worry that what happened to me will happen to her a few years down (especially as I recall she wants to get into publishing), but hopefully not. Strong kudos to Justina Ireland. We don’t interact much, but she’s a writer and a WOC who’s absolutely fearless about speaking up. Same with Mikki Kendall.

I attempted to give romance novels a fair shake. That produced my piece on reading heterosexual fantasies while queer. I’ll sub-review one of those novels here: it’s distractingly bad. The prose is not functional so much as dead on arrival. I’m confused by its distracting badness, where it seems to have been written by someone who hates prose and everything is conveyed by stale cliches. The female protagonist is made ‘relatable’ by her incompetence (defined by what she doesn’t know and can’t do) and the male romantic interest is mean and competent (multi-talented to a ridiculous degree) and oh so brooding/composed, and so on, she can’t help wanting him despite his arrogance and hostility and blah. This describes a lot of things. I think I’m about done trying, honestly.

What Now/What Next

I got to publish stories I’d written somewhat recently, and which were quite important for me to see published. One was ‘The Occidental Bride’, where I tore down the western gaze and gave it what it deserves. The other was ‘The Insurrectionist and the Empress Who Reigns Over Time’, an epic fantasy in 6,000 words, and one that—entirely unintentionally—contrasts Life is Strange‘s ending, which… I haven’t played it, but this covers the issue about tragic lesbians and how crushingly shitty those narratives can be to a lot of us. See also How To Tell You’re in a Mainstream LGBTQ Movie:

It all ends tragically. Your lover dies. Or you do. Sometimes you die embracing one another as the sun rises.

If you survive, the rest of your life will be spent clutching the belongings of your lover, staring out windows, and running day and night to escape the tragic limitations of media-bound sexual identity.

The more dead gay people in the movie, the more awards it will win.

Yeah.

Next year I already have stories lined up. Quite happy with this, of course. I’ve got things upcoming that involved pushing outside my comfort zone, writing in different styles, and I’m returning to nonfiction. I’m creating and what I create challenges. This is more than can be said of, well, certain sorts.

Things are much worse than they should be, but not as bad as they could have been. So it goes. I’m luckier than some, and speaking of than some, I’ve connected with a lot of other survivors of mass online abuse and it’s been a real blessing. I’m deeply grateful to Sam, Becks, Kiva, Sarah, Zoe, Deirdre, and so many, many others who gave me a chance and have been unbelievably kind and who have stayed around, not shutting up despite the incredible abuse they’ve been through (and are still going through). It’s rough. It’s shit. It’s difficult to stop and for some of us it will never stop, but there’s something to be said for helping each other survive. As I keep saying, if we don’t stand up for each other, who will? It helps that a lot of us come from different circles and fields, meaning there’s no power imbalance that would’ve been rife for manipulation the way the ‘community leaders’ of a field tend to abuse. There’s an equality, I suppose, and I also feel that I’m connecting with peers in every sense of the word. We all have varied experiences, varied interests and fields, but we share fundamental concerns about injustice. It’s pretty cool.

(I’ve put aside some money this year to help people who need it. It’s the least I can do.)

I’m tired of talking about Laura J. Mixon’s incomprehensible fixation on destroying my life, but I’m very grateful to Édouard for having put together this comprehensive rebuttal, ‘A Critical Review’ of Mixon’s… er… foray into ‘ethics’. My thanks as well to Asymbina, who also put together a summary and rebuttal.

I want to put this behind me.

This is difficult and it requires more time, I think, and by putting this behind me I mean I don’t want to talk about it any longer. I’m unhappy that Mixon (or Athena Andreadis or the rest of them) has taken up as much of my time as they have, but unfortunately you can’t choose to not be abused. I have said before, and will say again, that prior to this I had never done anything to Mixon and had no earthly idea what she existed. That’s the case for a lot of these people, really. They’ve violated me way too much already and while they seem happy to do some more if they can (there’s something to be said about humans who double down on monstrosity and beyond a certain point drop all efforts to be human altogether), well, what can you do? I’m going to do my best to ignore them and go on doing what I want to do. I don’t know, I tend to want my life to be about my achievements, not about… whatever that is.

(I’ll say though that none of these people has been subjected to, well, literally anything while my friends have been harassed endlessly, got violent phone calls, got doxed or near doxed, all as a byproduct of supporting me. How odd, isn’t it; wasn’t Mixon the one who’s the not-harasser, or whatever she’s supposed to be? That’s not to get started on the people who encourage others to abuse in their names, but enough about them.)

Awards, Huh

Here’s a bunch of stories I read and liked that were published in 2015. Every author is of color, trans, non-binary, queer or all of the above and no, it took literally no effort, my reading just happens to be like that naturally. Vajra Chandrasekera, Pear Nuallak, and A. Merc Rustad for particular attention. Pear Nuallak is eligible for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as is Cassandra Khaw.

Of some interest to gamer and game-developing friends, the Hugo for Best Related is a category where you can nominate games. Kanane Jones’ Final Girls, Kiva Bay’s 12 Hours, and (incongruously, yes) The Witcher 3 are all worthy candidates.

The Hugo for Best Fan Writer has literally no eligibility requirements beyond the fact that you have to be unpaid for your ‘fan writing’, and there’s no limit on subject/topic/material, as we have seen. So in theory you could nominate anyone, including heinous tabloid gossip-mongers and the like, or you could nominate Camryn Garrett, Katherine Cross, Ethan Robinson (for being a fantastic reader who also puts up with reading tons of short fiction), Charles Paysour (for the same as Ethan), Deirdre Moen (who was robbed last year despite covering Marion Zimmer Bradley sexually abusing her children and who continues to do important coverage on legal issues in romance this year), Nina Allan, Maureen Kincaid Speller, or Aishwarya Subramanian. Ronan Wills has done hilarious, witty work with his let’s reads and Zina gets at fundamental issues plaguing fandom in a big way, and does wonderful James Bond analyses.

I also would say that Édouard Brière-Allard’s actual journalism is also worthy of nomination, but I’m biased.

My novella suggestions are Kai Ashante Wilson’s Sorcerer of the Wildeeps which I suspect will be a shoe-in, and Cassandra Khaw’s Rupert Wong: Cannibal Chef. For novel, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise.

Best fancast: Cabbages and Kings does very interesting work.

Lastly, and I shouldn’t have to say this, I want to point out that not everyone I’ve named here is a person I’m friends with or even talk to. Kindly don’t harass them or put them on your sick hit lists, please.

Pandering to Panderers

You’ve all read it. If not, here it is.

My gut reaction was to treat this, more or less, as absolute gibberish. Not because it’s offensive, but because it’s so utterly apart from anything I know that it might very well describe an extraterrestrial experience. It’s a look into some… other world, anyway, the world of an academic from someplace in America, who worked… someplace in America, I’m guessing. It’s also an academic who’s a white woman and who—I infer—has a romantic and/or sexual interest in men, and who has had a child. Whatever ‘a romantic or sexual interest in men’ is. It’s all really quite incomprehensible, so much so I’m tempted to approach this with an anthropological if slightly put-off curiosity. The heterosexual occidental other, you know, with the weird name.

It turns out, just so, that I wasn’t alone. Well, I don’t think anyone described their response to it in quite the terms I used (slightly distasteful, bizarre, gibberish), but certainly it came up: my experience is nothing like this, I don’t relate to this at all, the bit about men has nothing to do with me as a queer woman, does she realize how much people of color pander to white women? I’d quote tweets, but I haven’t asked permission and anyway, no need to preserve in record what many people might’ve meant as one-off thoughts.

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